“Theories and Hidden Meanings” by Johanna Linschoten

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Vol. 1: Spring Essays 2012

It is easy to remember that pop culture includes the ideas, products, and even people favored by society, but it is oftentimes difficult to be able to link the events in our lives to a specific part of popular culture. During the Break, I participated in an event known as the “Thirty Hour Famine.” Throughout this event I fasted with a group for thirty hours in order to collect funds to aid hunger problems in Mongolia. Also, during the weekend before this event, a popular new movie known as The Hunger Games was released. At first, I thought the only thing related between these two events was hunger, but in actuality there is a deeper, more difficult-to-realize relation between the event I attended and the film. That relation is the idea of sacrifice. In the movie, the main character sacrifices herself in place of her sister when she finds out her sister would have to participate in the annual hunger games event, which could prove potentially fatal, while during our fast, we sacrificed food in order to gain funds for those who suffer from malnourishment. Therefore, although the main storylines are different, the theme of sacrifice remains a solid connection between the event I attended and the movie.

A famous theorist who can be connected to this idea of sacrifice is Karl Marx. One of his ideas was that overproduction, or having too many goods, would create a crisis. Marx believed that to prevent this crisis, it would be essential for “all basic sources of disequilibrium” to be eliminated. This would mean that those who have the resources to obtain luxuries would not do so, in order to benefit those who have so little resources it is a struggle for them to survive. This represents the idea of sacrifice because creating a society that possesses an equilibrium among its citizens involves a lot of sacrifice among them, and since this idea of sacrifice is present in Karl Marx’s theory, it can be related to The Hunger Games as well as the event I attended over the break.

One of Louis Althusser’s theories of ideology can be related to the film as well as to what I did over the Break. This is his idea that “ideology has material existence.” Pascal shares a fitting quote to describe what Althusser meant: “Kneel down, move you lips in prayer and you will believe.” Basically both men are saying that actions often are related to ideals. In the case of The Hunger Games, the main character volunteering her life in place of her sister’s life represents an action. This action further represents an ideal of sacrifice. In the case of the planned famine I participated in, refraining from food was the action. This action also further represented the ideal of sacrifice. Both examples demonstrate how actions are related to ideals, and therefore can be linked to Althusser’s quote.

Another famous theorist who can be connected to the film and my Spring Break experience is Antonio Gramsci. One of his famous quotes is that “The abolition of the class struggle does not mean the abolition of the need to struggle as a principle of development.” Gramsci is trying to warn his audience specifically that even if the conflict of class struggle is resolved, struggle will still be present in everyone’s lives because struggle is a part of human and societal progress. Less specifically he is saying that even when one life dilemma is overcome, more will still remain. Moreover, he is saying that the concept of struggle which presents the same uncomfortable feelings as sacrifice will be infinitely present in the lives of human beings. This quote can then be connected to The Hunger Games as well as the thirty-hour famine because of its theme of struggle which can be linked to sacrifice, with sacrifice being the relation between the film and the event.

These three theorists, Karl Marx, Louis Althusser, and Antonio Gramsci, can therefore be connected to the pop cultural movie The Hunger Games as well as to the event from my Spring Break. The linkage between all these things is again the idea of sacrifice. Chuck Palahniuk puts it best in saying that “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.” All three theorists express the idea of sacrifice. However, they also experienced sacrifice during their lives as men who went against the norms of society and decided to voice their opinions even though their opinions often clashed with the ideas of the majority. Sacrifice was present in their lives and in their words, just as it was at the event and in the film. Although some pieces of pop culture such as movie clips or music can be difficult to link to personal life events, there is often a hidden bond between the two. In this particular case, the bond was the idea of sacrifice. It was difficult at first to realize this connection, but as Heraclitus of Ephesus said, sometimes “a hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.”


Written for Dr. David Odhiambo’s ENG 200: Composition II


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